What are you looking for in a meditation app?
If you were to log into your phone’s app store looking for a mindfulness app, you’d probably get an overwhelming list of 500 or more apps with similar ratings. How do you know which is the best app for you? First you need to think about what you want from meditation. Are you interested in becoming more skilled at meditating or are you struggling with anxiety and falling asleep? Are you looking for an app that provides phone reminders where it’ll send alerts randomly or a preset amount to remind you to meditate or be mindful in your current environment? Are you more interested in guided or unguided exercises? Do you like music or nature sounds? Lastly, do you feel you are a meditation beginner, intermediate, or more advanced? Dr. Emma Seppälä, founder of Fulfillment Daily, notes that there are several different types of meditations, so it takes a bit of exploration to figure out which ones may best suit you. These questions are important to ask yourself before you begin downloading and paying a subscription.
Dr. Marlynn Wei, author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga, suggests trying to find a program that is most compatible with your personality or by how you learn. If you are involved in social media, you may want to connect with others and share your experiences. Or maybe you are more of a reader and would like to explore and learn information on how to do the exercises on your own. You may enjoy visuals, so finding an app that utilizes videos and attractive infographics would be more aligned with your needs. You can find several apps that have implemented trackers where you can update how you’re feeling to track your mood to help identify patterns throughout your day that raise or lower your mood. You may be desiring of situational meditations that you can do at work, at night before bed, in the car, or at the gym.
The last thing to keep in mind when finding an app is that you may need to try more than one program. You may need to find one with a different voice lead (for accent and tone preferences), interfaces, or you may not find the provided guided exercises to be beneficial. Fortunately, with so many apps released you should eventually be able to find the right one for you.
What is included in most meditation apps?
According to Dr. Wei, most of the apps in the market today include two or more exercises such as breathing exercises, body scans, sitting meditations, walking meditations, loving-kindness meditations, passing thoughts and emotions, mountain meditations, lake meditations, and three-minute breathing.
The apps listed are available for purchase on both Android and Apple phones. While many offer a free trial offer, to get all the features you will have to pay a monthly fee that ranges from $5-13 month. We encourage you to fully participate in the trial period so you can decide if you truly enjoy the app before you spend money.
Here are my recommendations for mindfulness apps:
I enjoy Calm because not only is it simple to use, but it engages both beginners and more advanced users. It provides you with the ability for some customizable content in terms of audio and visual cues, a new 10-minute meditation every day, set goals, daily reminders, and tracking and statistics. If you have trouble falling asleep you can get sleep stories. It provides guided meditations that range from three minutes to half an hour. It has a vast sound library such as relaxing sounds such as rainfall, wood burning, white noise, crickets, and so on. It does provide introductory sessions, but for all the features you must sign up for a subscription. They recently released a “Train Your Mind” series with Lebron James and it is great!
This app is great as many of its meditations are around 10 minutes–a sweet spot for those who need shorter meditations and those who enjoy longer ones. They have great animations, explain concepts clearly and concisely, provides customizable content, and is simple to use. You are also able to download those meditations for use on planes or places you may not have cell service. What I enjoy most about this is it feels like you have a mindfulness coach right in your pocket. You’re able to get meditations over a variety of categories that are both guided and unguided with topics spanning from health, happiness, wisdom, relationships, and compassion. It also provides other types of meditations such as mantras, yoga meditations, chakra, and Qigong meditations. I enjoy the fact they do check-ins before beginning a meditation so you can identify how you felt before and after a meditation. This app also takes more of a staircase approach, which means when you first download this, you’ll start at the beginner level with shorter meditations before being able to move to longer and advanced meditations. It never hurts to go over the basics! Check into Headspace here.
What I like best about this app is that meditations are organized based on what you’re doing or how you’re feeling such as waking up, feeling stressed, feeling sick, on a work break, eating, at home, experiencing difficult emotions, commuting, going to sleep or being unable to go to sleep, walking, and several others. The meditations range from 4 to 30 minutes and provide both male and female speakers. It also provides reading material to learn more about the foundations of meditations and the principles and ideas behind meditations. Also, if you want a friend, partner, or spouse to do a meditation with you you’re able to send certain meditations to others who may need to be reminded to just stop and take a few minutes to remember to breathe. They’ll thank you later. Check out Buddhify here.
This app is completely free, and who doesn’t enjoy things that are free and work really well? It provides a large library of several different meditations, music, and sounds that are of very good quality. The app provides talks and podcasts that incorporate several different areas of mindfulness and meditations. So, if you’re the type who wants answers to the “why” behind meditations this is a great app. I also like that you can meditate for as long as you like whether you want the focus to be on managing stress, coping with anxiety, improving your sleep, or just listen to meditation music. And for parents and those around young kids they have meditations for children all on the same app that you could use to meditate together.
Find Insight Timer here.
This app is reportedly the only meditation app by and for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. What makes this app unique is that all of the meditations are led by persons of color and the content focuses not only on mindfulness but on topics on dealing with microaggressions, self-worth, gratitude, cultivating loving kindness for difficult people, and meditations directed to queerness and transgender experiences. It focuses on experiences, community, growth, and empowerment. Like some features on some other apps if there is a category you’d rather focus more on or have individuals whose meditations you sincerely enjoy you can search specifically for those categories or meditations led by them. They have dharma talks that are about half an hour each and meditations which range from five to twenty minutes. What I like about this that even if you’re not a part of the BPIOC community this is a free app that provides a vast database of high-quality meditations and talks that could benefit anyone. Check it out here.
No matter if your favorites are different from mine or if you’re still on the search, you can’t go wrong if you find an app that encourages you to participate in mindfulness and meditations daily.
By Danielle Ferguson, MS, APC, NCC
“Buddhify.” Buddhify, 2020, buddhify.com/. Accessed 2 Feb. 2020.
“Experience Calm.” Calm – the #1 App for Meditation and Sleep, 2019, www.calm.com/.
Insight Network, Inc. “Insight Timer.” Insighttimer.Com, 2020, insighttimer.com/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
“Liberate – the Only Meditation App for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community.” Liberatemeditation.Com, 2020, liberatemeditation.com/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
“Meditation and Mindfulness Made Simple – Headspace.” Headspace, 2018, www.headspace.com/.
Seppälä, Emma. “What’s Your Meditation Type? (+ 5 Best Meditation Apps).” Psychology Today, 5 Mar. 2015
Wei, Marlynn. “What Mindfulness App Is Right for You?” Psychology Today, 22 Aug. 2015.